Website survey

We want your feedback on the Scottish Parliament website. Take our 6 question survey now

Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 16 November 2021 [Draft]

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Covid-19 Update, Scottish National Investment Bank, COP26 Outcomes, Urgent Question, Committee Announcement (COVID-19 Recovery Committee), Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, World COPD Day 2021


COP26 Outcomes

The next item of business is a statement by Nicola Sturgeon on the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—outcomes. The First Minister will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.


On Saturday, COP26 concluded with 197 countries adopting the Glasgow climate pact. Today, I will report briefly on the Scottish Government’s activities during COP and offer our preliminary view on the agreement.

First, I want to record my gratitude to all those who helped to ensure that the hosting of the summit was a success. COP26 was one of the most important events ever held in Scotland; it was also one of the largest.

More than 40,000 people registered to attend, which is a higher number than for any of the previous 25 COPs. In addition, tens of thousands of activists visited the city. Some inconvenience was inevitable from an event of that scale, and I know that the city experienced disruption. However, the warmth and enthusiasm of Glasgow’s welcome were praised by every international visitor I met.

My first and very heartfelt thank you today is therefore to the people of Glasgow. [Applause.] I also thank the Scottish Event Campus, Glasgow City Council, all the volunteers and the partners across the public and private sectors whose hard work made the event possible.

My thanks go to the United Nations and in particular to the UN climate change executive secretary, Patricia Espinosa. The UK COP president, Alok Sharma, deserves huge credit. He and his team worked tirelessly to secure the best possible outcome. I am grateful to them for keeping me well briefed throughout the negotiations.

Peaceful protest is vital at any COP. It keeps pressure on negotiators and reminds those who are inside the blue zone of the vital job that they are there to do. Over the two weeks of the event, more than 400 protests were staged across Glasgow. That there were fewer than 100 arrests in total is a credit to protestors and to Police Scotland. The policing operation at COP26 was the biggest ever to be undertaken in the United Kingdom, and I pay tribute to the chief constable of Police Scotland and to all officers from forces across the UK who worked under his command for the highly professional manner in which the operation was conducted.

Over the past two weeks, the eyes of the world have been firmly on Scotland, and we have shown the best of our country to the world. Among the almost 500 meetings, events and other engagements that ministers undertook—including almost 100 that I undertook personally—many were with businesses and potential investors in green innovation. We also took the opportunity to strengthen our bilateral relationships with a number of countries and regions around the world.

As well as showcasing the country, the Scottish Government set clear objectives for our participation in COP. First, we aimed to amplify voices that are too rarely heard in such discussions—for example, those of young people, women and people from the global south—and we sought to be a bridge between those groups and the decision makers who were around the negotiating table.

To that end, we funded the conference of youth when the UK Government opted not to and we supported the Glasgow climate dialogues to give a platform to voices from developing and vulnerable countries. In partnership with UN Women, we launched the Glasgow women’s leadership statement on gender equality and climate change. I was joined for the launch of that statement by the leaders of Bangladesh, Tanzania and Estonia, and the statement has already been signed by more than 20 countries. We also endorsed the UNICEF declaration on children, youth and climate action.

Secondly, we worked hard to ensure that cities, states, regions and devolved Governments played our full part in securing progress. Scotland is currently the European co-chair of the Under2 Coalition, which held its general assembly during COP. More than 200 state, regional and devolved Governments are members of that coalition. Collectively, and significantly, we represent almost 2 billion people and account for half of global gross domestic product.

In the run-up to COP, the coalition sought to maximise its influence by launching a new memorandum of understanding that committed its members to reaching net zero by 2050 at the latest and to doing that as individual members earlier if that was possible. That has been signed up to by 28 Governments, and we are encouraging others to sign up.

More than 200 cities and states have signed up to the Edinburgh declaration on biodiversity. That represents welcome progress as we look ahead to the biodiversity COP next year.

Our third objective was to use COP to challenge ourselves to go further and faster in our journey to net zero. That is why I chose as my first engagement at COP to meet the climate activists Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg. It is also why we moved away from our previous commitment to maximum economic recovery of oil and gas and embarked on discussions with the new Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance.

We published additional detail on our policy ambitions for onshore and offshore wind and launched a new hydrogen strategy and a £55 million nature restoration fund. We published a new planning framework with climate action at its heart, and we promoted our green investment portfolio to a range of businesses and investors.

We launched the blue carbon international policy challenge; supported international agreements on low-carbon transportation and reducing agricultural emissions; and signed new memorandums of understanding on heat with Denmark and on peatlands with Chile. A full list of such initiatives and of the 10 international agreements that we signed will be placed in the Scottish Parliament information centre later this week.

Of course, our most important objective was to use our engagement, influence and interaction to push for an international agreement that would live up to the urgency of the climate emergency. We wanted to see action to limit global warning to 1.5°C and, as a minimum, a tangible mechanism to keep 1.5 alive; we wanted the $100 billion of finance that was promised by the global north to developing nations 12 years ago to be delivered; and we wanted to see the developed world recognise its obligation to help developing countries to pay for the loss and damage that they are already suffering as a result of the climate change that they have done so little to cause.

The Glasgow climate pact represents progress on many of those issues, but it must be built on quickly if climate catastrophe is to be avoided. It is important that the necessity of capping temperature increases at 1.5°C is no longer questioned. However, the world is still on a path to temperature increases of well over 2°C, which is a death sentence for many parts of the world. To keep 1.5°C in reach, global emissions must be almost halved by the end of the decade. The requirement for countries to come back next year with substantially increased nationally determined contributions is therefore vital.

Finance is crucial to faster progress. I welcome the aim of doubling finance for adaptation by 2025, and the commitment to a longer-term finance goal. However, it is utterly shameful that the developed world could not deliver the $100 billion of funding that was promised in 2009 by the 2020 deadline, or even by 2021.

This COP also delivered significant commitments on methane and deforestation. In addition, a COP cover text has agreed, for the first time—albeit in language that was watered down in the final moments—the need to move away from fossil fuels.

In the run-up to COP, and as a result of what we heard during the Glasgow climate dialogues, the Scottish Government decided to champion the issue of loss and damage. Two weeks ago, we became the first developed country in the world to make a commitment to support countries that are experiencing loss and damage. I am delighted that our commitment has since been supplemented by Wallonia, and by a contribution from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

The final position that was agreed at Glasgow represents progress in recognising the loss and damage that the climate crisis, which was created by developed nations, is already causing in developing nations, but it does not go nearly far enough. I regret in particular the decision by some developed nations to block the establishment of a Glasgow financial facility on loss and damage. Over the weekend, I met Dr Saleemul Huq, who is one of the leading campaigners on that issue, and pledged that the Scottish Government will continue to work with him and others to build the case on loss and damage ahead of COP27 in Egypt. Loss and damage was an example of Scotland’s leadership during this COP, but ultimately Scotland can lead and speak with credibility only if we deliver on our own net zero targets.

As I reflect on the past two weeks, I feel pride in the leadership that Scotland has shown, for which we have been widely recognised. However, I also feel a renewed sense of responsibility to go further and faster; to face up to tough challenges as well as the relatively easy options; and to help raise the bar of world leadership more generally. Our focus in the months and years ahead will, therefore, be firmly on delivery.

This decade will be the most important in human history. The actions that we take between now and 2030 will determine whether or not we bequeath a sustainable and habitable planet to those who come after us. The stakes could not be higher, and I absolutely understand why many are angry and frustrated that more progress was not made in Glasgow. However the Glasgow climate pact provides a basis for further action, and the key test will be whether it is implemented fully, and with the required urgency. We must all focus our efforts on that between now and COP27, and then beyond. Scotland will, I am sure, continue to play our full part. While we can be proud of the part that we played at COP26, our responsibility now is to ensure that future generations will look back and be proud of the actions that we take in the months and years ahead.

The Glasgow pact is a momentous achievement that will keep the 1.5°C goal within our grasp. What was agreed in Glasgow can protect the future of our children and the generations to come. COP26 can be remembered as the first step towards the end of coal use and deforestation, and for its historic deal to cut methane emissions.

COP26 was the biggest conference ever hosted in the United Kingdom. As the First Minister said, the people of Glasgow deserve our thanks for coping with the disruption. I acknowledge the efforts of Police Scotland and police officers from around the UK, who deserve our thanks and appreciation for keeping disruption to a minimum. Alok Sharma and the UK Government deserve huge credit for delivering such a momentous conference in Scotland and for working tirelessly to get a deal over the line.

The First Minister said that we

“can lead and speak with credibility only if we deliver on our own net zero targets.”

That is the same First Minister who claimed that almost 100 per cent of all the electricity that we use is from renewables when, in fact, just over half of the electricity consumption in Scotland last year was from renewables. Her Government’s renewable heat target was missed and progress has stalled. The Scottish National Party Government has missed its own legal emissions targets for the past three years. Setting ambitious targets is great, but the planet needs action.

Will the First Minister explain how her Government will deliver a lasting legacy for COP26 by finally meeting its own targets?

I agree that the 1.5°C goal is still within our grasp as a result of the Glasgow climate pact. However, that will remain the case only if actions are quickly taken to realise that the world is still on a devastating path of global temperature rises that are way above 1.5°C and, in fact, 2°C. I will be pretty frank about our targets: Scotland is a world leader, but the bar of world leadership is too low.

Ninety-seven per cent of our net electricity consumption is from renewable sources; we now need to replicate that in heat, transport and agriculture. We have legally binding annual targets, which most other countries do not have. They are designed to ensure that, in years when we fall short of targets, we are legally obliged to catch up so that we remain on track for the 2030 75 per cent emissions reduction target and the 2045 net zero target. We have marginally missed the past three years’ annual targets, which is why we have published a catch-up plan.

Let us put that into context. Scotland has decarbonised faster than any G20 country—that is an independent assessment—and we are already halfway to net zero. If we had met our emissions reduction targets, we would have cut them by 55 per cent. We have cut them by 51.5 per cent, which is still way ahead of most other countries in the world.

However, we need to raise our ambitions even further. I say to Douglas Ross that I am under no illusions about that; I know that it will take tough decisions. We have probably done the relatively easy things already. I reflect on the fact that every time we come forward with a tough decision, whether on workplace parking to reduce the number of cars on our roads, or on facing up to the need to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the one thing that is absolutely consistent is opposition from the Scottish Conservatives. If we are to meet our targets, lead the world and play our full part in saving the planet, perhaps it will be necessary to have a bit less opportunism and opposition from the Scottish Conservatives.

The eyes of the world have been on Glasgow. I thank everyone who helped to deliver a successful COP26.

We have had two weeks of words and we now need action. I welcome the Glasgow climate pact, but we must recognise that it does not go far enough or fast enough.

We all have a duty to hold Governments to account, including our Governments in Scotland and across the UK. The rhetoric does not meet the reality, because the reality is that there is not enough of a pledge in the Glasgow climate pact to keep warming to below 1.5°C. That is not just a global failing; here in Scotland, there have been missed targets on emissions, renewable heat and biodiversity. There is no meaningful plan for a jobs-first transition, and public transport routes are being cut.

In the spirit of living up to the demands of the crisis, I ask the First Minister to take action on something right now. An estimated 613,000 households in Scotland live in fuel poverty, and more than 1.3 million homes need insulation or heating upgrades. However, between 2013 and 2019, the First Minister’s Government helped only 150,000 households. With serious action, we can make progress on the jobs crisis, the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis, but that will require real political will. Will the First Minister agree to meet me, trade unions and the housing sector to draw up a plan to jump-start that vital work and to begin the process of making the lofty climate rhetoric a reality for people in Scotland?

The commitment to keeping warming below 1.5°C is now unquestionable and is reflected clearly in the Glasgow climate pact. That is a big step forward, but the actions are not yet in place to give us confidence that we will start to see global emissions falling in order to meet that target.

I have already been candid about our obligations not only to set targets but to meet them. Scotland’s targets are consistent and exceed the obligations on 1.5°C in the Paris agreement. We are again leading by example, but we must raise our ambition even further.

I or the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport will meet anyone to discuss how we can take forward our ambitions further and faster. We must all raise our game. As I said in my statement, I came out of COP26 proud of the leadership that Scotland is showing—which is strongly recognised around the world, if not always in this chamber. However, we must go even further.

Before I meet Anas Sarwar to discuss fuel poverty, I say to him that he should come prepared to engage with the fact that the power to act on fuel poverty does not lie in the hands of this Government. Financing, too, does not always lie in the hands of this Government. I am not sure that we will get very far if the suggestion is another example of Labour willing the ends but not being prepared to take the means into our hands. In the spirit of all of us raising our game, that is my challenge to Anas Sarwar.

I extend the thanks of Scottish Liberal Democrats to everyone who kept COP26 safe and made it possible.

Keeping the 1.5°C goal alive will require concerted action both at home and abroad, which means we cannot wait for COP27 or COP28. As we have heard a number of times today, Scotland has repeatedly missed its own targets in that vital area.

The First Minister says that she wants to be challenged to go further and faster. I invite her to consider some of the proposals that my party has laid out to give new hope in the climate emergency. One is an end to the reliance on fossil fuels for all new-build houses. We seek a new rail-card entitlement that would allow all passengers to benefit from rail-card fares, and we seek the removal of this Government’s commitment to a third runway at Heathrow.

I will consider all those proposals in good faith. The Government must ensure that it has the funding to implement policies, but I am aware that we must look across a range of responsibilities and that we must challenge ourselves to go further.

I put the challenge back to Alex Cole-Hamilton. When it comes to some of the tougher issues, we need cross-party support. The criticism that I made of Douglas Ross could also be levelled at the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Workplace parking is an example. A proposal was made to try to reduce use of cars, particularly in our urban centres, but political opportunism got in the way of what the planet needs.

I accept my responsibilities. When the really tough issues present themselves, we also need the Opposition to rise above ordinary politics.

A number of members are keen to question the First Minister. I want to take as many as possible, but we need succinct questions and answers.

Support, both financial and technical, will be crucial for many countries as they adapt and mitigate to deal with loss and damage. The UN’s secretary general praised Scotland’s leadership in launching a £2 million loss and damage fund. Will the First Minister outline how we will continue to work internationally to maximise the impact of such initiatives?

That is an important issue and one in which I am committed to continuing to build momentum. It is important to focus on why loss and damage matter. It is important to fund climate change mitigation and to fund developing countries to adapt to the future impacts of climate change, but many developing and vulnerable countries are suffering loss and damage now. The developed world, which has done most to cause climate change, has an obligation to help those countries to finance mitigation of those impacts now—not as an act of charity, but as a fundamental and basic act of reparation.

I will not name them at this stage, but I have had a number of discussions in the past two weeks with other Governments that are interested in following up and stepping up on loss and damage. There was some progress on that in Glasgow, with the inclusion in the agreement of text on loss and damage. Unfortunately, a proposal for a financial facility was knocked out in the final stages. One key objective of COP27 will be to establish that facility.

We will work with others over the next 12 months to build a head of steam on that, because it is an obligation that we owe to the countries that are right now dealing with the worst impacts of climate change.

The north-east and our oil and gas workers were alarmed to hear of the First Minister’s discussions with the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance, which is committed to a rapid and dramatic shift away from UK oil and gas. Will she reassure them that her discussions have finished and that Scotland will not join? Will she guarantee that her Government will ensure that every possible job will transition and that the industry’s drive to decarbonise will be harnessed before her Government takes any decisions that could throw nearly 100,000 oil and gas jobs off a cliff edge?

To be perfectly frank, I think that many people in the oil and gas sector are more worried about the UK Government’s failure to support the Scottish carbon capture and storage cluster and the Acorn project. Perhaps, if we want to talk about a just and sensible transition, Liam Kerr should be having some conversations with his colleagues as well.

Here we have it, Presiding Officer. Liam Kerr illustrates helpfully for me—I thank him for that—the point that I have been making. We all talk, rightly, in general terms about the need to do more. Everybody across the world is talking about the need to accelerate our progress away from fossil fuels, but, as soon as we start engaging with the detail of that, what we have from the Scottish Conservatives is opposition.

We have to make sure that the transition is just, and it is this Government that has already established a £500 million just transition fund for the north-east and Moray to help with that. We must build up the renewable alternatives and the low-carbon alternatives, which is why the failure to support carbon capture is inexplicable. We must do all of that, but we cannot escape the moral obligation to accelerate that progress, and that is what the Government will continue to do. If we can learn from others in alliances about how to do that, and if we can offer our expertise and experience in how to do it, I think that that is what any responsible Government, in the current situation that the world is facing, would do.

Whether COP26 will succeed now depends entirely on whether countries deliver on the commitments that they have made. Will the First Minister outline what positive contributions Scotland and the other devolved nations and states of the world made to COP26? Does she agree that leadership begins at home and that the UK Government should match Scotland’s action and investments?

I agree very strongly that leadership starts at home, and, for us, that is here, in Scotland, in this Parliament and in this Government. I accept unreservedly the obligation that that puts on my shoulders and the shoulders of my Government. However, I would like the UK Government—which did many very good things in the run-up to and during COP26 and will, I hope, take them forward—to change its position and do more on certain things. I have mentioned carbon capture and storage as an example of that. We have a situation in which the powers span devolved and reserved responsibilities. We need to see action, and that is a point that the Climate Change Committee has recognised in the past.

We also need to recognise—we have worked hard to do this—and maximise the influence of state Governments, regional Governments, city Governments and devolved Governments such as ours. As I said earlier, the Under2 Coalition accounts for almost half the global economy, representing almost 2 billion people across the world. It is often with those Governments, such as ours, that the levers lie, so we must all play our part in this. We must all lead properly and encourage others along the way to go faster as well.

If we are serious about averting climate catastrophe and accelerating towards a just transition for a green economy, Cambo cannot go ahead. There is no rigorous climate change test that Cambo could possibly pass, so the First Minister must do more than simply ask the UK Government to reassess the proposed oilfields. Time is running out. Will the First Minister oppose Cambo in the strongest possible terms and provide the political leadership that has been lacking?

I have made my position very clear. I do not think that we can go on extracting new oil and gas for ever—that is why we have moved away from the policy of maximum economic recovery—and I do not think that we can continue to give the go-ahead to new oilfields, so I do not think that Cambo should get the green light. I am not the one taking that decision, so I have set out a proposal for a climate assessment, and I think that the presumption would be that Cambo could not and should not pass any rigorous climate assessment.

Monica Lennon might want to join me in calling for the powers to be transferred to Scotland so that we can take the decisions. However, given that it is somebody else who has the power, I have set out a process by which a different decision could be arrived at. [Interruption.] As soon as Monica Lennon wants to argue that the powers should be in our hands, she will find a willing ally in me. [Interruption.]

Can we have less chuntering from sedentary positions across the chamber?

A great deal has taken place since COP began, but I was particularly pleased to see the launch of the Glasgow women’s leadership statement. Will the First Minister tell us how important she believes that statement to be—as well as every signatory—and how it will help in the fight for climate justice?

As I said earlier, we will publish the details of the international agreements that we signed, as well as the other initiatives and the signatories to them. We will put that information in SPICe.

The Glasgow women’s leadership statement is hugely important. We know that women are disproportionately impacted, across the world, by climate change. When it comes to population displacement that is caused by climate change, around 80 per cent of all those who are displaced will be women and children. The impact is disproportionate, but women’s voices are not heard sufficiently loudly at any level. Often, it is women who are responsible for looking after children and for providing food for their families. If it is largely men who are designing the solutions, those often do not reflect the lives of women. From the grass roots, therefore, right up to leadership level, we need to hear the voice of women more loudly. The statement that we launched in Glasgow in partnership with UN Women—a significant initiative—is an important part of trying to drive that forward, and we will be encouraging other signatories in the months ahead.

The launch of the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance was a seminal moment in Glasgow because, for the first time, it sent a message to coal-dependent states such as India that richer states such as our own are prepared to phase out oil and gas production with a just transition. The Danish minister who launched the alliance said:

“How can you be on a path to carbon neutrality but still aim to produce oil and gas to sell to others?”

Does the First Minister agree with that perspective, and when will Scotland join the alliance?

I absolutely agree that we need to move beyond oil and gas as quickly as we can; however, we need to do that justly—and I think that Mark Ruskell agrees with that. People who pay any attention to what I say on the issue will see that I have changed my position, and that of my party and of the Government, because I do not think that we can be credible on such things unless we accept the responsibility of moving away from fossil fuel. However, I am not going to abandon the 100,000 people who work in that sector, so the need to do that fairly and justly is really important.

We are assessing the membership of the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance. There are three categories of membership, and we are assessing which of them, in the initial stages, would be most likely. If we decide to join, that is likely, initially, to be as a “friend”, which would allow us to share our experience. However, underpinning all of that, for all the countries that are signed up—some of which do not really have much of an oil and gas sector; there are different considerations for different Governments—is the commitment to a just transition.

The oil and gas sector is, and has been for some time, important in Scotland when it comes to jobs, infrastructure, expertise and supply chain benefit, and we have to make that transition properly and carefully. However, there is no doubt in my mind that we need to do that as quickly as possible.

The predominantly working-class communities of Anderston, Finnieston and Yorkhill, in my constituency of Glasgow Kelvin, were fantastic hosts to COP26. Will the First Minister acknowledge their hospitality and elaborate on what community resources are available to support such communities in transitioning to a greener and more climate-efficient future?

There is already a range of resources and help for communities across Scotland. I point, for example, to the climate challenge fund, which provides funding to a range of local projects. We are also building a new model to support community climate action via a network of regional climate action hubs and climate action towns. Those will be important vehicles for local communities and local people to contribute fully to that effort.

I agree with Kaukab Stewart about the contribution of local communities across Glasgow to making COP a success. It was not an easy two weeks, and the period leading into it was not easy for the city, but I was inundated—that is not an exaggeration—with people coming up to me to tell me what a wonderful city Glasgow is and how fantastic the people of Glasgow are. Right across the globe, I think, people will know about Glasgow who might not have known about it before. The same is true of Scotland. There will be massive opportunities for us in the medium to long term if we play our cards right—which we intend to do.

During COP26, Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, announced the Glasgow financial alliance network, with £100 trillion of private finance available for the transition to net zero across the world. Will the First Minister confirm what discussions she has had with Mark Carney in relation to the Glasgow financial alliance network and what share of that funding might be available for Scotland in its transition to net zero?

I have had discussions with Mark Carney and the Scottish Government has had discussions with Mark Carney. The high-level champions of the UN were also involved in that initiative, which is important. I welcome it and I am enthusiastic about it. However, it is really important to not mischaracterise that £100 trillion, which is not a funding pot but the combined assets of all the financial institutions that were part of the agreement. Although it is really important to celebrate such initiatives, we do not do anybody any favours if we try to suggest that it is something different from what it is.

There is a massive appetite in the capital market to find good investable projects around green innovation. That is why we have put the green investment portfolio into the market, to try to harness as much of that funding for Scotland as possible. That is a big priority for us. Over the course of the two weeks, I spoke to many different investors in the fields of wind and hydrogen who are looking very positively at Scotland as a location for investment. One of our priorities, coming out of COP, will be to ensure that we catch as much of that investment as possible.

What will be the impact of the COP26 agreement on remote and rural communities? What support will be available to enable those involved in the agricultural industries to reduce carbon emissions—particularly those in the dairy sector, which is an important industry for the south-west of Scotland?

We have a really positive vision for agriculture. However, there is no doubt that agriculture is one of the sectors in which considerable adaptation is needed to reduce emissions. One of the investments that I was able to welcome over the course of COP was from a company that has decided to locate in Ayrshire its facility for manufacturing additive for cattle and sheep feed, which will have a big global impact in reducing emissions from agriculture. We need to work with agriculture to support the innovation that is already in the sector in order to ensure that it and the rural communities that it supports fully play their part—just as with oil and gas, in a fair and just way.